The Philadelphia 76ers are apparently getting a chance to pitch their process to LeBron James.
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According to multiple reports, representatives from the team will meet Sunday with James’ agent Rich Paul in Los Angeles. James, however, will not be at this meeting.
Here’s more from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the meeting and what looms ahead for James and the Sixers:
A high-level Philadelphia 76ers contingent is meeting with LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul, on Sunday in Los Angeles, league sources told ESPN.
James isn’t expected to attend the meeting, which is the first significant chance for the 76ers to make case a free-agent case to James, league sources said. Ownership and possibly interim president of basketball operations/coach Brett Brown are expected to lead the meeting with James’ representatives, sources said.
The Sixers have the ability to sign James to a $35.6 million annual max salary, partnering him potentially with two of the NBA’s best young stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
For the Sixers to land James, they would have to pull off some creative work with their roster to create the salary cap space needed to add him, writes Joe Vardon of daypg.com:
The Sixers do not quite have the cap space to pay James a maximum salary ($35.6 million next season), but could clear it without little trouble if James wanted to head their way.
The most Philadelphia or any team besides the Cavs could give James is a four-year contract worth about $153 million. The Cavs can offer James a five-year deal worth about $206 million.
Any notion, though, that this meeting between James’ representatives and the Sixers is being done as a favor should perhaps be dispelled. Keith Pompey of daypg.com reports that James has real interest in joining up with Philadelphia:
Sources have said that this is not an obligatory meeting with James’ representatives. The free agent is really interested in playing for the Sixers, according to the source. The forward would welcome playing alongside all-star center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, the rookie of the year. He’s also impressed with coach Brett Brown and the Sixers’ state-of-the-art facility. And by coming to Philly, James believes he would have a great chance to play in his ninth consecutive NBA Finals.
Sources says the Sixers are not out of James’ free agency hunt. Now, things could change if the Lakers are able to trade for San Antonio Spurs two-time all-star forward Kawhi Leonard.
Under that scenerio, James would probably like to play alongside Leonard. However, sources have said that the Sixers are still in the hunt for trading for Leonard as well.
The New York Times‘ Marc Stein reports (via Twitter) the Sixers believe they still have a real chance, as well, to land the disgruntled Leonard.
According to The Associated Press’ Tom Withers and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Cleveland Cavaliers spoke with James when NBA free agency opened at 12:01 ET Sunday. According to the reports, Cavs general manager Koby Altman spoke on the phone to both James and his agent Rich Paul.
Per Vardon, a source close to James said James would not be involved in any of these initial meetings with teams.
While there was a feverish flurry of activity involving big-named players in the opening hour of what has been billed as the Summer of LeBron, James did not announce where he’ll play next season and it’s not known if other moves, such as Paul George staying in Oklahoma City and Chris Paul staying in Houston, have affected his thinking.
The Sixers can offer James a chance to play alongside budding, young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid as well as stay in the Eastern Conference, where the path to the NBA Finals is far easier than out West.
Philadelphia hasn’t hid its desire to land James, a three-time champion who would instantly make the club a championship contender. Earlier this season, James was flattered when a Pennsylvania company paid for three billboards in Ohio urging James to come to Philadelphia, where the club has been abiding by a “Trust The Process” mantra while rebuilding.
James isn’t expected to drag his choice out over several days. He knows what he wants and he’s very familiar with the Cavaliers after leading them to four straight NBA Finals since returning as a free agent in 2014 following four seasons in Miami. Because they own his “Bird rights” the Cavs can offer James more money than any other team – a five-year, $207 million deal.
But the 33-year-old has interests beyond basketball and the massive Los Angeles market would give him a bigger stage and platform.
The Lakers have a young, talented but inexperienced roster and they were hoping to land both James and possibly George. But the All-Star forward opted to stick with the Thunder and will sign a four-year deal when teams are permitted to finalize contracts on June 6.
George’s choice could sway James to sign a short-term deal with Cleveland, but the Lakers are determined to get their hands on the four-time MVP.
The Cavs, on the other hand, have been mostly operating in the dark. While there had been dialogue between Paul and Altman since the season ended, James had not given the team any sense of his plans. That’s made it tough for Cleveland to upgrade its roster, but the Cavs remain committed to bringing back James even for just one more year.
On Friday, James formally became a free agent when he informed the Cavs he would not exercise his $35.6 million contract option for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent and the prize catch in the 2018 class.
Now that some of the early dust has settled, the battle for him appears to be down to two teams: Cleveland vs. Los Angeles.
Home vs. Hollywood.
Wine-and-gold vs. Purple-and-gold.
But while the Cavs and Lakers appear to be the front-runners for James, the Sixers aren’t ready to give up the fight. Well, at least young and outspoken center Embiid isn’t.
Embiid posted a message on Twitter that seemed to be directed at No. 23 and what it might be like to walk in the footsteps of Lakers legends like Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Shaquille O’Neal.
“The Lakers are FOREVER gonna be Kobe’s and Magic’s team,” Embiid wrote, referring to Kobe Bryant and Johnson. “Process that.”
George’s move has given James more to process, but the chance to restore Los Angeles to prominence may be just what he needs at this point in his career. And while he has long been compared to Michael Jordan, Johnson is the one whose game more closely resembles his own.
For now, though, he’s not attached to anyone.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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